Stories from my travels around the world


 

Travelling around The Netherlands

Schiermonnikoog

Sleepy on the ferry
Sleepy on the ferry

Good morning everyone! It is still early morning, hahaha, hence the sleepy look on my face. So why am I up so early, and a more important question, why am I telling you all this to you? The answer is quite easy, today I am going on a nice daytrip to the island of Schiermonnikoog and I wondered if you would care to join me on my trip :-)

I see this confused look on your face and see you wonder "Schiermonnikoog"? What's that?? Schiermonnikoog is an island in front of the Dutch coast and it is one of my favourite daytrips in the Netherlands. It is a popular destination for the Dutch but I feel it is rather unknown abroad. So on this page I would love to show you a bit more of this little island and show you why it is worth the trip going here. So hop on the ferry! We are leaving in a few minutes......

Enjoying the views from the ferry

View from the ferry

The ferry crossing is a very enjoyable one and that alone is almost worth making this daytrip. It only takes 45 minutes to make the crossing from the mainland to Schiermonnikoog but the views are so nice and it is such a relaxing trip. You can sit inside, nice and cosy and warm and enjoy a cup of coffee and look through the windows enjoying the views.

But you can also go to the top deck, out in the open air, and enjoy the views from here. It's much colder out here, with the fresh sea breeze, but it is so much more enjoyable, hahaha, that's what I think anyway :-) Bring a nice thick sweater though, you might need it! Especially if you are travelling so early in the season like I did (early April). The sun is nice and warm already this time of year, but the winds are still quite cold.

View from the ferry

The "Waddenzee"

Waddenzee
The "Waddenzee

Arriving at Schiermonnikoog

The island and village of Schiermonnikoog
The island and village of Schiermonnikoog

Schiermonnikoog, or sometimes also called 'Schier' by the Dutch people, is a beautiful little island. The "Wadden islands" are at the north of The Netherlands and are a series of small islands in a row in front of the coast. Schiermonnikoog is the smallest inhabited Wadden Island. It is only 16 kilometres long an 4 kilometres wide and it has one village (which is also called Schiermonnikoog).

The photo you see here is taken from the ferry and you can see the island and the village of Schiermonnikoog. We are almost there! So grab your things and get ready to set foot on land! It's time to discover a bit more about this lovely little island.

Welcome to Schiermonnikoog!

Old houses in the village of Schiermonnikoog
Old houses in the village of Schiermonnikoog
Old houses in the village of Schiermonnikoog

Most likely the first stop you will make on the island is at the village of Schiermonnikoog. A comfortable way to get here is by taking the bus that waits in front of the ferry. The bus times are adjusted to the ferry times, so there is no waiting involved. It's only about 10 minutes by bus to the village.

The village itself is small but rather picturesque with lots of old houses, like the ones you can see in the photo. The village of Schiermonnikoog dates back to around 1760 and the house on the photo must have been one of the first because it dates back to 1759. There is not so much to do and see here, but nice for a lazy stroll. There are some shops scattered around in the little streets, mainly little tourist shops where you can buy postcards, some gifts or everything you need for your kids to have a great time on the beach.

An island on the move

Schiermonnikoog
Schiermonnikoog

The island hasn't always been here, and certainly not the way it looks these days! The islands here in the north part of The Netherlands are constantly on the move. Many islands have been formed in this region and overtime have disappeared again due to the tides and the influence of the sea. The island of Schiermonnikoog has existed now for over a 1000 years although the size and shape have changed a lot in the course of time. The oldest part of the present island is only about 800 years old.

People have been forced to move around on the island adjusting to the 'wandering' spirit of the island. A good example of this is when the largest village on the island in the year 1725 fell prey to drifting sand and the advancing sea and had to be abandoned. The population moved to a new village, the present-day village of Schiermonnikoog .

Schiermonnikoog

How Schiermonnikoog go its name

Statue in the village centre of a Cistercian monk
Statue in the village centre of a Cistercian monk

So how did the island get its name? To most the name sounds strange: Schiermonnikoog, hahaha, and yes, I know.... it's impossible to pronounce! It's even difficult to describe how to pronounce it, so I skip giving that a try. So let me focus on the easy part and tell you how this island got its name.

In the fifteenth century the island was administered by Cistercian monks and these.monks wore grey clothing. And the island is named after these monks: 'schier' means 'grey', 'monnik' means 'monk', and 'oog' means 'island', so together it forms "Schier-monnik-oog" or "Grey-monks-island".

On the photo you can see the statue in the village centre of a Cistercian monk.

The lighthouse of Schiermonnikoog
The lighthouse of Schiermonnikoog

The structure that dominates the island, and can be seen from far away, is the lighthouse. In 1853 there were two lighthouses build on Schiermonnikoog. When seen from a ship, the lights of the two lighthouse coincided, the shipper could sail inbetween the sandbanks from the 'Wadden sea' to the 'North sea'. But over time the sandbanks moved and made one of the lighthouses obsolete.

Maybe some of you that have been to the island might not recognize the lighthouse right away, but that's because the lighthouse was painted in this cheerful red colour in 1998.

The lighthouse of Schiermonnikoog

The lighthouse of Schiermonnikoog
The lighthouse of Schiermonnikoog

It's very easy to get to the lighthouse itself. I think it's best if you buy yourself a map of the island so you can navigate around and see all the bicycle paths.

The lighthouse is not far from the village, just head towards the beach and you'll find it. The bicycle path is a dead end, but it does end at the beach, hahaha, so that's not a bad stop to make :-) It's only a slight detour from the main road to get here. The street name is appropriately called "Vuurtorenpad" which means "lighthouse path" :-)

Lighthouse Road
Lighthouse road

The watertower of Schiermonnikoog

The watertower of Schiermonnikoog
The watertower of Schiermonnikoog

This is the second lighthouse of Schiermonnikoog that is located more inland. This is the lighthouse that is not in use like a lighthouse anymore, so it was made into a watertower instead.

If you really want you to, you can bicycle to the tower....although it is actually a walking path, so maybe I shouldn't reccommend this ;-) A little warning though: iIt's quite the climb getting uphill as the tower is located on top of a dune!

By bicycle of course!

Bicycle
Bicycle on Schiermonnikoog

The absolute best way to explore this island is by bicycle. The places I've shown you so far (the village, lighthouse and watertower) are quite close to each other and easily reached by foot. But if you would like to see more of Schiermonnikoog, the bicycle is your best option.

Everywhere on the island are little bicycle paths which lead you through the beautiful dunes and landscapes of the island. Don't worry about bringing a bike yourself, as you can rent a bicycle on the island (see my transportation tips). But if your not in the mood for an active vacation, you can also be lazy and lay down on the beautiful and huge beach :-)

It's difficult to get lost

Paddestoel
"paddestoel"

Along on the bicycle trails you can see this little "mushroom" shaped signs. In Dutch we call these signs the "paddestoel" signs which translates into "mushroom" signs. These signs are quite common in The Netherlands and give road directions to bicycles. On every crossing you can find one in Schiermonnikoog which makes it hard to get lost. They are all in Dutch so knowing some Dutch words might come in handy..... I just noticed that these signs are written in a lot of Dutch, lol, I never realized that before!

So here we go, a quick lesson in vacation Dutch:
Dorp = Village
Vuurtoren = Lighthouse
Strand = Beach
Badstrand = bathing area (beach)
Duinen = dunes
Rechts = to the right
Links = left
Bos = forest

When you are feeling lost and you don't trust your Dutch language skills you can always take the easy way out: just ask for directions from the first person passing by. Almost all Dutch people speak quite good English and are willing to help you find your way around.

And just in case you wondered... I didn't get lost! lol :-) I know I do that sometimes, but with a map with me, three great guides and these mushroom shaped signs, there was no way that even I could get lost ;-)

A beautiful island

Schiermonnikoog
Schiermonnikoog

I love this island and I tried to capture the atmosphere of the island with this photo. It has now become one of my favourites, proudly hanging on my wall, always bringing me in a wonderful vacation mood when I look at it. The main part of the island is natural landscape : dunes, beaches, woods and also shallows and a polder. On the rest of this page I'll show you a bit more of all that.

The thing I love about this island, is that there are no cars allowed. The only ones that are allowed to use a cars are the island residents. So in fact it means no traffic at all on the island, except for the bicycles. It's really a paradise for people that love to make a relaxing bicycle trip or enjoy hiking.

Typical landscape on the island

Schiermonnikoog   Schiermonnikoog

The surrounding of the lighthouse is typical for the part of the island: dunes, overgrown with long grass and the occassional shrub and small tree. The lighthouse is located close to the village, so there are still quite a few houses scattered around. Of course the landscape wouldn't be complete without a winding bicycle path to make it possible to explore the area. And as everywhere else on the island: somewhere in the distance you can see the sea :-)

The thing I love about this island, is that there are no cars allowed. The only ones that are allowed to use a cars are the island residents. So in fact it means no traffic at all on the island, except for the bicycles. It's really a paradise for people that love to make a relaxing bicycle trip or enjoy hiking.

 

Schiermonnikoog

The woods on Schiermonnikoog
The woods on Schiermonnikoog

The woods are an area not to be missed on your bicycle trip, as they make a lovely change to the dunes. The woods were not originally in this area, but are relatively new. These conferous woods were planted around 1920 by the Count of Bernstorff. The trees grow poorly on the island though, due to the hard wind and salty sea, so they never lived up to their expectations and economical use. It's a lovely area now though, very popular among an increasing number of forest birds on the island.

Watch out for the pheasants!

Pheasant
Pheasant

It was in this wooded area that I almost bicycled over a pheasant. Luckily (for me and probably for the pheasant as well, lol) the pheasant quickly made room on the bicycle path for me to pass by. I couldn't let this opportunity slip by though to make a brake for it and make a quick photo.

The island is home to many birds and it is not surprising that the island has been declared a National Park in 1989. Although it has a National Park status, most of the park is open to the public all year round. There is one area though, east of the "Prins Bernhardweg" (= a name of a road) and north and east of the "Kooiweg", that is closed from the 15th of April to the 15th of July because thousands of birds come to this area to breed. This protected area is clearly marked by signs.

The sound of the seagull

Seagull
Seagull

Seeing the pheasant was fun, but the one bird I remember best of all is the seagull and especially its sound. Yes, I know, this sounds crazy, a seagull doesn't sing so particularly well and it makes a sound that could be very well described as screeking. The high pitched noise carries far and long and isn't easy on the ears....

But for me it is like music to my ears: I associate this sound with the coastal area of The Netherlands and most of all I think about my trip to Schiermonnikoog: memories of a walk on the beach, taking the ferry, bicycling through the dunes, the fresh seabreeze blowing in my face, salty air of the sea, a moment of relaxation, of being away from it all pop into my mind. And every time I see this photo, I hear the seagull in my head and I am there.... for just a few seconds, back on Schiermonnikoog, with my love Åke and my family. Beautiful memories of a wonderful times.

The dunes

Schiermonnikoog
Schiermonnikoog

On some parts of the island you can still see the "living dunes". Charactaristic for this landscape that it is always changing. Sand is gathering blown together by the wind, creating new little dunes, or increasing already existing ones. On other places holes are created because the wind hollows out this area by blowing away the sand. It's fascinating to see landscape being created in this way and knowing on a next visit it will all look different again.

Enjoying the view

Schiermonnikoog
Schiermonnikoog
Schiermonnikoog

It's great to bicycle on the island and to stop from time to time to enjoy the view. And one of the views not to miss is at the "Bunker Wasserman". This bunker dates back to World War II and used to be part of the Atlantic Wall. Nowadays the bunker is transformed into a viewpoint, giving a great opportunity to look out over the surrounding landscapes on top of a dune.

And finally: the beach!!

Beach of Schiermonnikoog
Beach of Schiermonnikoog
Beach of Schiermonnikoog

Schiermonnikoog is probably most famous for its beach as it is so extremely broad. Depending on the tides the beach can go from broad to endlessly broad! It took me quite a while to walk all the way from the dunes towards the waterline. In summertime it is great to just be lazy and find a nice spot on the beach to do some sunbathing or take a dip in the water. In all other seasons a walk along the beach is a perfect thing to do. Imagine a fresh sea breeze blowing in your face, the sound of the seagulls, the warmth of the sunshine, the taste of salt in the air, the calming sound of the water washing ashore and lazily strolling along the waterline and searching for some seashells..... Perfect huh? I think so anyway :-) A word of warning maybe is to NOT put your feet in the water so early in the season. Hahaha, it was fun doing so, but brrrrr, the water is still very cold!

Beach of Schiermonnikoog   Beach of Schiermonnikoog

Schiermonnikoog

Bicycle
Taking a short break

We've been cycling for quite a while and it's time to relax a bit. Of course you get hungry from all that hard work and having a picnick is the ideal thing to do.

There are restaurants on the island, but they are all in or close to the village and some at the beach. So take some food with you on you bicycle trip and find a gorgeous spot to stop, lay down and relax. There are so many bicycle path on the island that a beautiful spot is easy to find. Just put your bike on the side of the path, walk up the dune and down on the other side. You'll have a perfect spot for a picnic! It might not be perfectly flat to sit down, but who cares. It's great to lay down, enjoy the great weather and eat some snacks.

Getting to the island

Ferry to Schiermonnikoog
On the ferry

Schiermonnikoog s in the northern part of The Netherlands, north of the Provinces of Groningen and Friesland. It's only a short distance to get to the island, about 45 minutes with the ferry.

I visited my family in Groningen which made Schiermonnikoog perfect for a daytrip. It is only an hour by car to Lauwersoog (where the ferry departs from) and than the 45 minutes by boat to the island. From Amsterdam it is a bit further to get here, so I would suggest to make it at least a visit of two days.

Cars are not allowed on the island so you have to leave your car at the huge carpark in Lauwersoog. From here you take the ferry to the island. The best way to get around on the island is by bike.

The ferry cost approx. 12 Euro for an adult during the summer months. It is not possible to make reservations for the boat, but there is plenty room on board. On busy days there are extra ferries to bring you to the island.

Buy a combination ticket instead!

combination ticket
combination ticket

Here is a good tip for you: Instead of buying the ticket to the ferry and renting the bike on the island seperately, buy a combined ticket for the boat and the bike at once. The lines for the ferry can be very long and when you have a combined ticket you have to get in a different line waiting for the ferry which is a lot shorter! These combination tickets are only sold by the VVV (Tourist Information Office) and are called "Fiets Geniet Dag". It includes the ferry to and from the island, one day of bicycle rent, and the bus from the boat to the village on the island. The VVV sales point is found in the departure hall at Wagenborg.

When you get at the island you can either choose to select a bike at the harbour or take the bus to the village of Schiermonnikoog and select a bike there. The choice of bikes in the village is much bigger than at the ferry, so I would say that that is the best option. The price for the bus is included in the combination ticket.

Prices 2006
Adults: € 17,60 (off season € 15,95 )
Children (4-11): € 11,90 (off season € 11,10)
65+: € 16,30 (off season € 14,70)